Streaming music throughout the home may not have the panache of video, but besides being a whole lot easier (and at no cost compared to a Netflix subscription), the advantage is that any speaker you have can now become wireless and stream music for you. That means the den, the basement, the backyard — if there’s a speaker there the music from your smartphone, tablet or computer is now available.
This doesn’t come free — D-Link’s WiFi Audio Extender has to be involved. The $49.99 device is a small white box that plugs into an AC socket for power — no power brick or cable involved. It takes over the job of gathering in the music from the airwaves as it uses your WiFi home network. There’s only two parts of it worth noting: the first being a socket for any stereo mini-jack cable to plug into so the other end can go into a powered speaker or audio dock or whatever, and the second being a WPS button that quickly and efficiently connects it to the WiFi network (those routers without WPS button capability don’t suffer that much, it just means a bit of more work through the use of a free mobile app).
So now I can use Airplay (on Mac/mobile systems) to stream music from an iPhone or iPad or from iTunes on my Mac. Same goes for PC, but here DLNA systems are used instead (although I read that iTunes on a PC can stream to compatible devices too). Transmitting to the D-Link just requires selecting it so that the audio signal heads “thataway” and as long as the WiFi network is blanketing the area, the WiFI Audio Extender will pick up the audio being streamed and transmit it to the audio device for playback. Simple. There’s also the added benefit of, unlike Bluetooth, having a wide area of coverage and a better frequency response.
The final point has to do with the name and why it wasn’t called “Audio streaming extender.” By its very nature of having an 802.11N WiFi transmission system inside (downwardly compatible as necessary), the WiFi Audio Extender not only receives audio signals at up to 300 Mbps but also acts as a WiFi extender. That’s right — just like the name implies, the device expands, strengthens and stabilizes the WiFi coverage onwards from where it’s been located. So you can say goodbye to existing WiFi dead zones once it’s been integrated into the home network. Nor does it hurt that it’s so blessed unobtrusive — once set up, just stick it into any AC outlet within WiFi coverage and use it, giving it a bit of time to resync of course. It does what it says, it does it well and it’s a one-time purchase that doesn’t cost much. What else is there to say?